Race Decriminalization and Criminal Legal System Reform
85 NYU Law Review Online 119 (2020)
18 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2020
Date Written: April 23, 2020
There is emerging consensus that various components of the criminal legal system have gone too far in capturing and punishing masses of Black men, women, and children. This evolving recognition has helped propel important and pathbreaking criminal legal reforms in recent years, with significant bipartisan support. These reforms have targeted the criminal legal system itself. They strive to address the pain inflicted by the system. However, by concerning themselves solely with the criminal legal system, these reforms do not confront the reality that Black men, women, and children will continue to be devastatingly overrepresented in each stitch of the system. As a result, these reforms do not reach deeply enough. They do not address or confront the reality that simply being Black has been and will continue to be criminalized.
This Article asserts that measures beyond these reforms — measures that reach the root of racial criminalization — are necessary for true criminal legal system transformation.
Keywords: collateral consequences, black families, criminalizing race, secondary punishment, guilty pleas, racialized social control, reclamation
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